An experiment with a bird in an air pump - Joseph Wright. 183 x 244 cm
What is Joseph Wright in short? First of all, these are atypical plots that could appear only in the Enlightenment and only by a master who has a great interest in science and achievements. These are slender multi-figure compositions. And finally, this is the mastery of lighting effects, among which the main thing is to write a plot with burning candles. The whole set of elements by which we correctly recognize Wright is in his most interesting canvas, “Experiment with a Bird in an Air Pump”.
Back in 1659, scientists (Robert Boyle) set out to design a vacuum pump. Not at once this rather expensive apparatus appeared, but as soon as it was invented, they began to conduct various kinds of experiments tirelessly, trying to understand what was happening with objects in space without air. Over time, experiments on living things, birds and insects turned into a spectacular demonstration on tickets, gathering a lot of curious people around - from scientists to ordinary workers.
In Wright's painting, we see a white cockatoo in a glass bowl. The mechanism pumps air out of it, and the bird beats in a panic, feeling an acute shortage of oxygen. In fact, just such an experiment with a bird could not be - a cockatoo even now, and especially then it was a very rare bird, and no one would kill it ... even out of curiosity. Why did the author focus on it? Wright was greedy for all kinds of exoticism, as well as for the achievements of scientific progress. In addition, the white plumage of a cockatoo looks very impressive in a dark room.
With various emotions on the faces of the audience, it can be noted that interest in the experience is much stronger than humanity or a feeling of compassion for a doomed creature. Moreover, the absence of a central figure makes all participants equal, including the viewer - the author invites us to join the circle of curious people.
The picture of the master was a great success. She was praised for her "mind and energy," Flaubert noted her as "deep and charming." Engravings and mezzo-tinto, repeating the picture of Wright, were in great demand.
Today, a canvas with cruel scientific experience is perceived as a great example of a work dedicated to scientific progress and the interest that it aroused, excitement and literally excitement of the hearts of ordinary people. And Wright went down in the history of English and world painting, as an original artist, devoted to the era in which he was destined to be born - the era of Enlightenment.